IU opens final week with rivalry game vs. Louisville

They’re two of the best programs in the Midwest.

And in recent years, Indiana has held the advantage in its series with Louisville.

The Hoosiers have won seven of the past eight meetings with the Cardinals, a stretch that dates to the opening game of the 2013 College World Series. With U of L due in Bloomington to resume the annual series on Tuesday night, IU will try once again to claim the upper hand against its regional rival.

For Indiana, the final midweek game of the season represents an opportunity to build on the momentum found in its weekend series win at Michigan. The Hoosiers will be in the running for a Big Ten regular season title later this week, but first up is a potential NCAA Tournament preview against the Cardinals.

IU won last year’s meeting at Jim Patterson Stadium, claiming a 9-5 victory in 10 innings. Not only has Indiana won seven of the past eight meetings, the Hoosiers have prevailed nine of the last 11 times the teams have met. IU owns a 28-22 all-time series record.

The No. 10 Cardinals come to town after capturing their 40th win of the season on Friday at Virginia, marking the 12th time in coach Dan McDonnell’s 13 seasons that the program has reached 40 victories.

Louisville owns the second-best batting average (.296) in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and leads the league in hits (539), runs (405) and stolen bases (88). On the mound, the Cardinals lead the ACC in team ERA (3.59), WHIP (1.19), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.78), shutouts (6) and hits allowed per nine innings (7.02).

Indiana, meanwhile, enters the week aiming to put a dent in the school record book. The Hoosiers are tied with Arizona State for the national lead with 84 runs, and trail the program’s single-season record by merely one (85 in 2010). Senior Matt Lloyd and sophomore Cole Barr are tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 home runs apiece.

IU is also first in the Big Ten in runs (351) and total bases (806), second in slugging percentage (.462) and RBIs (316), and third in doubles (99) and walks (255).

Right-hander Gabe Bierman (3-0, 3.75) will start for Indiana against Louisville freshman Jack Perkins (3-0, 3.49).

The game will be aired live on ESPNU, with first pitch set for 7 p.m.

Hoosiers in the polls
A series win at Michigan was enough to push Indiana back into national rankings.

IU came in at No. 25 in the D1Baseball.com Top 25 on Monday, marking the fourth straight week the Hoosiers have appeared in one of the country’s six national polls.

Indiana opened last week with a loss at Kentucky, before taking two of three games in a weekend series at Michigan to get within 1.5 games of the first-place Wolverines in the Big Ten standings.

IU also jumped four spots to No. 21 in the Collegiate Baseball top 30.

As important as anything, last weekend helped Indiana move up five spots to No. 26 in the latest NCAA RPI.

The Hoosiers close the regular season this week with four games, beginning with a 7 p.m. showdown with Louisville on Tuesday at Bart Kaufman Field. IU caps the schedule with a three-game series against Rutgers beginning on Thursday evening.

Bierman earns Big Ten honor
A string of scoreless innings helped Indiana reliever Gabe Bierman earn his first Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.

Bierman made two appearances out of IU’s bullpen last week, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings at Kentucky on Tuesday before working three perfect innings in a save situation at Michigan on Friday.

The right-hander retired all nine Michigan batters, striking out the final eight hitters to earn his first save. Bierman is the second Hoosier to earn the league’s Freshman of the Week award this season. Outfielder Grant Richardson received the award in back-to-back weeks last month.

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